Besides advantages of high quality and low cost medical treatment, the prospect of a diverse range of tourist activities in India provides a huge potential to attract South Africans tourists, a top Indian tourism official has said.
"As a first step, orientation tours for travel agent staff and media will be undertaken to show the wide range of tourist activities that are available in India, from wildlife to skiing holidays and architecture to the growing health tourism as people take advantage of high quality, low-cost medical treatment in India," the newly appointed Director of India's Tourism Office in South Africa Manas Patnaik told a seminar on tourism organised here by the Indian High Commission.
Indian South Africans have traditionally seen Mumbai as a shopping haven, linking it either to visits to the golden triangle that includes the Taj Mahal in Agra, or to temple visits to the south of India, but there is much more to the country than that, according to Patnaik.
"India is not restricted to Jaipur, Agar or Goa for tourism, and we need to make sales staff aware of this," Patnaik said.
"Unless they are aware of this, they cannot promote all this as a destination in India. We are looking forward to long-term relationships with tour operators in South Africa, airlines and other partners in the region."
The official highlighted the fact that India offers unspoilt beaches where one can swim with an elephant, which is not possible anywhere else in the world.
"Africa is famous for its lions and India for its tigers. We can match African countries in terms of variety of flora and fauna with 102 national parks, 482 wildlife sanctuaries, and more than 30 tiger reserves," he said.
Patnaik said India Tourism was trying to develop the arts and cultural heritage of rural areas, some of which are more than 5 000 years old, in conjunction with UNESCO to avoid them dying out.
"In India, there are so many arts and crafts that are dying tout because of a lack of patronage and to ensure their survival 32 villages were initially identified which had core competencies in arts, craft, and culture and were provided with funds and infrastructure. These sites are close to popular tourist attractions, so we find that they are receiving attention from tourists."